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Reproduced courtesy of Gawirrin Gumana

Djarrwark Monuk

Date: 1998
Overall: 1270 × 625 mm
Medium: Natural pigments on bark
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with the assistance of Stephen Grant of the GrantPirrie Gallery
Object Copyright: © Gawirrin Gumana
Object Name: Bark painting
Object No: 00033763
Place Manufactured:Northern Territory

User Terms

    This bark painting portrays Wukili, the saltwater country of the Djarrwark clan. It features a depiction of the canoe and paddles belonging to Djan'kawa, the Dhuwa creator ancestors who spotted Balwatja (catfish) and Malmuna (Sheridan's Threadfin fish) during the creation time. These became the Dhuwa totems connected to Wukili. The Dhalwanu clan artist from the homeland of Gangan has painted the country of his Waku (father's mother). The miny'tji (sacred clan design) represents the saltwater of Wukili.
    SignificanceThis bark expresses the stories of the people from the Djarrawark clan. It was painted as part of the Saltwater Project by the Yolnu people in an important effort by the Aboriginal community to educate others of their local stories and sacred sites.
    HistoryThe Yolnu people are intrinsically linked to the land and the saltwater coastline. They inhabit a landscape that was formed by the actions of ancestral beings. In 1996 an illegal fishing camp was discovered at Garranali, a sacred Aboriginal area in East Arnhem Land. It instigated the local Yolnu people to begin painting a series of barks that demonstrated the rules, philosophies and stories of their region. The end result was the production of 80 barks portraying the Saltwater Country of East Arnhem Land.

    In 1963 a Swiss mining company began plans to build a mine on sacred Yolnu lands. In opposition the Aboriginal community organised a petition that was signed on bark and sent to Parliament. The proposed development by the mining company and Australian Government was challenged by the Yolnu in court. However their claims of land ownership were dismissed. This historic event highlighted the issue of Aboriginal land rights in Australia.

    In 1976 the Aboriginal Land Rights Act was passed in the Northern Territory, now seen as the benchmark in the recognition of Aboriginal land rights. The Yolnu were decreed the legal owners of northeast Arnhem Land, however their ownership did not extend into the Saltwater coastline. Only in July 2008 have Indigenous rights and use of the Arnhem Land coast been given precedence over commercial interests and fishing. The issue of Aboriginal land rights, customs and laws continues to be contentious in the Australian legal system and wider community.
    Additional Titles

    Collection title: Saltwater collection

    Web title: Djarrwark Monuk

    Primary title: Djarrwark Monuk

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